Australia is a beautiful place to live or vacation, but it is also dangerous. With 2.9 million square miles of land and a vast expanse of ocean surroundings, Australia is home to 66 venomous species, plus much more non-venomous but no less dangerous animals.
Here are 10 of the most dangerous animals in Australia.
Taking the top spot is the box jellyfish, the most venomous animal globally. Found along Australia’s north and northeast coasts, the box jellyfish has stinging tentacles that can kill a human in as little as 2 minutes.
The venom a box jellyfish delivers attacks the heart and central nervous system. Victims who do not die from the sting will often drown before reaching shore as their body goes into shock. Survivors experience pain for weeks or even months after being stung and often have large scars caused by the jellyfish’s tentacles.
There are 50 species of box jellyfish on the planet, with 2 of the most venomous found along the Australian coastline. Box jellyfish are translucent, with a blueish hue due to the water and light from the sun refracting through their membrane.
Box jellyfish have as many as 15 tentacles up to 10m, with over 5000 nematocysts on each, producing stings upon contact to stun prey. These otherworldly creatures have four primitive eyes and 20 ocelli that detect light.
A very close second on this list of dangerous creatures is the stonefish. Found off the coast of northern Australia, stonefish live in rocky outcrops and coral reefs where they are masters of camouflage. Even experienced divers and nature experts have trouble spotting them.
A stonefish can deliver venom that can kill a human in less than one hour. Skilled at the ambush, stonefish will sit perfectly still on the seafloor, waiting for smaller fish to pass by. When their prey is close enough, the stonefish will strike out suddenly, swallowing their prey whole.
As their coral reef habitats continue to die off due to rising ocean temperatures, stonefish are at increased risk of extinction.
Bees and Wasps
Perhaps the most surprising entry on this list, these furry insects are responsible for more deaths per year than sharks, snakes and crocodiles combined.
Approximately 3% of Australia’s human population is allergic to bee and wasp stings. When someone with an allergy is stung, they experience anaphylactic shock. This includes hives, low blood pressure, breathing difficulties, increased heart rate, dizziness, and vomiting.
In extreme cases, a bee or wasp sting can be fatal. Bees and wasps are necessary to the planet’s survival as they pollinate plants and flowers. Honeybees alone pollinate up to 80% of worldwide crop production!
Without them, food prices would skyrocket, as farmers would have to rely on artificial methods to pollinate their crops.
If you want to avoid a nasty shark bite, the southern coast of Australia is your safest bet. Bull sharks are found along the east, north, and west coasts of Australia and can live in salt and fresh water.
They get their name from the blunt shape of their snout and their tendency to head-butt prey before eating them. A short burst of speed is enough to stun a fish, making catching it much more manageable.
Females are larger than males by roughly half a foot and can weigh almost 300 pounds. They live in shallow waters, even being found in golf course lakes!
Bull sharks do not hunt humans but may mistake a person for a larger fish. A head butt from a bull shark can easily knock a person unconscious. If the shark doesn’t bite you, you will drown before help arrives.
Made famous by zookeeper and wildlife expert Steve Irwin, Australia’s saltwater crocodiles are one of the country’s most dangerous animals and the largest reptiles in the world.
Affectionately referred to as salties, these huge reptiles are dangerous because they are found in water and on land. A crocodile can float below the water surface with only its eyes and the tip of its snout visible.
Crocodiles are living reptiles, not changing much over the last 200 million years. Their powerful tail propels them forward and can even launch them out of the water to catch prey.
Prey animals include fish, birds, other small reptiles, wild boars, and buffalo. Saltwater crocodiles have a bite force of up to 5000 pounds per square inch. They bite down on their prey and then perform a ‘death roll,’ turning their body over to tear off pieces of flesh.
Sydney Funnel Web Spider
Funnel webs are one of the most feared arachnid species, and for a good reason, although certain aspects have been exaggerated.
Found along the east coast of New South Wales and Brisbane, funnel webs are large shiny brown-black spiders. They prefer damp and humid conditions such as dense forests, but they are often found in urban areas.
Funnel webs dig burrows under rocks or fallen tree branches, spinning webs around the entrance. When prey animals walk on the webbing, the spider will dart out suddenly and drag their meal back into the burrow. On the menu for these venomous spiders are insects and small reptiles.
When threatened, funnel webs behave aggressively, taking a defensive stance by standing on their rear legs and showing their fangs. They will strike if a potential threat gets too close, ejecting venom from their fangs.
A bite from a funnel web can kill a human in just 15 minutes. The toxins attack the nervous system, triggering an elevated heart rate, a spike in blood pressure, breathing difficulties, and numbness.
Eastern Brown Snake
As the name suggests, these snakes are brown, varying from pale brown to brown-black. They are long and slender, with small heads and orange eyes. They are often confused with other snakes sharing similar colouration.
Brown snakes prefer wooded areas with lots of leaf litter and grasses. They are also found in grassland and scrub. Damp areas are selected for shelter, such as gaps between rocks, beneath legs, or in animal burrows. They will also use human structures such as buildings, construction materials, or log piles.
Although named the eastern brown snake, these slithery reptiles are also found in the Northern Territory, North Queensland, the southern coast of New South Wales, and South Australia.
Brown snakes are easily agitated and will strike without consideration. Coupled with the fact their natural habitat includes heavily populated areas, brown snakes are one of the most commonly seen by humans.
While brown snakes do not deliver much venom from their small fangs, the potency is deadly. Their venom contains various toxins that can cause paralysis and bleeding. Brown snakes account for the most deaths in Australia due to snake bites than any other species.
The blue-ringed octopus does not look like it belongs on this list. These marine marvels are covered in stripes, rings, and spots of iridescent blue against a constantly changing body. They are masters of camouflage, able to blend seamlessly into their surroundings.
In this case, looks can kill – literally – in as little as 5 minutes. The toxins in the venom cause paralysis in under 2 minutes, but the victim will remain conscious during this time. Death occurs due to a lack of oxygen as paralysis prevents effective muscle control.
If you receive artificial oxygen and urgent medical care quickly, survival is possible, but the first 12 hours are critical.
Octopuses are among the most intelligent creatures on the planet. They can work out how to open jars and use their thickest tentacle to judge if they can fit through tight gaps.
The habitat range of the blue-ringed octopus is along the eastern coast of Australia, from Brisbane in southern Queensland down along the coast of New South Wales.
Sometimes referred to as the eastern taipan, these snakes are large with colourations including black-brown, red-brown, brown and green-brown, and green. The face is generally paler than the rest of the body, and the belly tends to have a greenish tinge.
They are found from Brisbane right up the eastern and northern coasts of Australia, including the Northern Territory and the north coast of Western Australia.
They hunt small rodents, including mice and rats, amphibians, lizards, and birds. Instead of gripping its prey, it will deliver several sharp bites and allow the animal to escape. The snake uses its excellent sense of smell to track the injured animal. This method of hunting means the snake does not risk injury from a prey animal that may choose to fight back.
Like brown snakes, the coastal taipan is easily agitated and will strike with little hesitation. Taipans have fangs as long as 12mm and can deliver a severe bite. Their venom can cause blood clots, convulsions, paralysis, and muscle tissue death.
Common Death Adder
Last on our list of dangerous animals is the common death adder. This is the only species of death adder found in Sydney. They are also found along the eastern edge of Queensland in scattered areas of the Northern Territory and along the western coasts of Western and Southern Australia.
They prefer wooded areas but are also native to grasslands and heaths. Their diet is predominantly amphibians and small reptiles, but they will also eat bird eggs, small birds, and rodents.
Its hunting tactic is to hide under leaf litter and wait for its prey to pass by. It holds the tip of its tail above the ground to act as a lure. When prey approaches, the adder strikes. The venom acts quickly to disable the prey, allowing the snake to eat leisurely.
Adders have large fangs and toxic venom. Before antivenom was produced, approximately 60% of adder bites were fatal. Nowadays, most bites are considered severe but can be treated promptly if medical care is received.